S12 is the brainchild of the Icelandic artist Æsa Björk who moved to Norway in 1998 after graduating from Edinburgh College of Art. Before moving to Norway she had sought out programs that focus on experimental and sculptural use of glass and soon discovered the lack of such a facility in Norway.
This led to the opening of S12 in 2007.
In Norway none of the institutions of higher education in the arts offer a glass program, or facilities to work with glass. The traditional flag bearers for glass have been factories such as Hadeland and Magnor Glassverk who through their work with many of Norways best designers and glass artists have promoted glass art that is well established in the Nordic tradition of functionality and aesthetics.
Recently there has been a shift in the approach that has come about through the increased emphasis on material exploration and conceptual development represented in many international art programs that offer glass. S12 has been in the forefront in giving this development a voice and a venue for recent graduates and other visual artists that wish to experiment and expand the way glass as a material can be presented in a wider context, often combining it with other material approaches and artforms.
Facilitating experimentation, promoting increased understanding by showing the wealth of approaches and possibilities glass as a material has to offer, S12 offers a project driven residency program, open access facilities, courses and an exhibition program that presents both well established and emerging artists.
The flourishing and increasingly popular residency program has since 2010 included both prominent and emerging artists.
Since S12 opened its doors it has held the annual exhibition “Young and Loving”, presenting some of the most interesting glass artists to emerge in recent years, including: Anna Mlasowsky, Stine Bidstrup, Hiromi Takizawa, Maria Bang Espersen and Ingrid Nord.
In recent years S12 has also collaborated with Berengo Studios in Venice making it possible to exhibit prominent Glasstress artists that in their work reflect sensitivity towards the material in a contemporary setting.
Through promoting art that challenges the traditional view and approach to using glass as a material S12 has had an important role to play not just in Norway, but internationally. The recent acquisition of two works by Æsa Björk – “First Impression from the Measuring Device for Negative Space” acquired by the National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design in Oslo and “SÝN” a work that combines Pate de Verre and video projection, acquired by KODE Art Museums of Bergen, is an acknowledgement of glass sculpture and more experimental approaches to the material as of the important work the people behind S12 have done in promoting glass as a material that challenges the much debated border between art and craft.